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John Locke 2nd Treatise Of Government

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Separation Of Powers And The Dissolution Of Government

15. Constitutional Government: Locke’s Second Treatise (1-5)

Locke claims that legitimate government is based on the idea ofseparation of powers. First and foremost of these is the legislativepower. Locke describes the legislative power as supreme in having ultimate authority over how theforce for the commonwealth shall be employed . Thelegislature is still bound by the law of nature and much of what itdoes is set down laws that further the goals of natural law andspecify appropriate punishments for them . The executive poweris then charged with enforcing the law as it is applied in specificcases. Interestingly, Lockes third power is called thefederative power and it consists of the right to actinternationally according to the law of nature. Since countries arestill in the state of nature with respect to each other, they mustfollow the dictates of natural law and can punish one another forviolations of that law in order to protect the rights of theircitizens.

John Locke And The Second Treatise On Government

Keywords:John LockeGovernmentNatural RightsSocial ContractDemocracy

In 1688, King James II was overthrown by a group of Parliamentarians. This was the result of what is now known as the Glorious Revolution, or the Revolution of 1688. Naturalist and political philosopher John Locke was present to witness these events and was so compelled by them, he wrote what is known as the Second Treatise on Government. In this, Locke would attempt to explain why King James II was justifiably overthrown, and why William III ascended him. He would define for us the legitimate role of civil government.

Political power,right

Locke believed, contrary to claims that God had made all people naturally subject to a monarch, that people are by nature free.. This belief was the foundation of his philosophy on Government. To Locke, a Government existed, among other things, to promote public good, and to protect the life, liberty, and property of its people. For this reason, those who govern must be elected by the society, and the society must hold the power to instate a new Government when necessary.

In this section of the Treatise -Chapter XIX- John Locke discusses the dissolution of government, the way in which a People can re-form that government, and the natural and just rebellions that occur from a monarchial abuse of power.

Locke was not against Government in fact he was in favor of it, so long as it existed at the will of the people:

Consent Political Obligation And The Ends Of Government

The most direct reading of Lockes political philosophy findsthe concept of consent playing a central role. His analysis beginswith individuals in a state of nature where they are not subject to acommon legitimate authority with the power to legislate or adjudicatedisputes. From this natural state of freedom and independence, Lockestresses individual consent as the mechanism by which politicalsocieties are created and individuals join those societies. Whilethere are of course some general obligations and rights that allpeople have from the law of nature, special obligations come aboutonly when we voluntarily undertake them. Locke clearly states that onecan only become a full member of society by an act of express consent. The literature on Lockes theoryof consent tends to focus on how Locke does or does not successfullyanswer the following objection: few people have actually consented totheir governments so no, or almost no, governments are actuallylegitimate. This conclusion is problematic since it is clearlycontrary to Lockes intention.

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Of The Extent Of The Legislative Power

(*The lawful power of making laws to command whole politic societies of men,belonging so properly unto the same intire societies, that for any prince orpotentate of what kind soever upon earth, to exercise the same of himself, andnot by express commission immediately and personally received from God, or elseby authority derived at the first from their consent, upon whose persons theyimpose laws, it is no better than mere tyranny. Laws they are not thereforewhich public approbation hath not made so. Hookers Eccl. Pol. l. i.sect. 10.

Of this point therefore we are to note, that such men naturally have no fulland perfect power to command whole politic multitudes of men, therefore utterlywithout our consent, we could in such sort be at no mans commandmentliving. And to be commanded we do consent, when that society, whereof we be apart, hath at any time before consented, without revoking the same after by thelike universal agreement. Laws therefore human, of what kind so ever, areavailable by consent. Ibid.)

Sect. 135. Though the legislative, whether placed in one or more, whether it bealways in being, or only by intervals, though it be the supreme power in everycommonwealth yet:

To constrain men to any thing inconvenient doth seem unreasonable. Ibid. l. i.sect. 10.)

Sect. 142. These are the bounds which the trust, that is put in them by thesociety, and the law of God and nature, have set to the legislative power ofevery commonwealth, in all forms of government.

Of The Ends Of Political Society And Government

Second Treatise of Government

Sect. 123. IF man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said if he beabsolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, andsubject to no body, why will he part with his freedom? why will he give up thisempire, and subject himself to the dominion and controul of any other power? Towhich it is obvious to answer, that though in the state of nature he hath sucha right, yet the enjoyment of it is very uncertain, and constantly exposed tothe invasion of others: for all being kings as much as he, every man his equal,and the greater part no strict observers of equity and justice, the enjoymentof the property he has in this state is very unsafe, very unsecure. This makeshim willing to quit a condition, which, however free, is full of fears andcontinual dangers: and it is not without reason, that he seeks out, and iswilling to join in society with others, who are already united, or have a mindto unite, for the mutual preservation of their lives, liberties and estates,which I call by the general name, property.

Sect. 124. The great and chief end, therefore, of mens uniting intocommonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation oftheir property. To which in the state of nature there are many things wanting.

Sect. 128. For in the state of nature, to omit the liberty he has of innocentdelights, a man has two powers.

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Of The Subordination Of The Powers Of The Common

Sect. 150. In all cases, whilst the government subsists, the legislative is thesupreme power: for what can give laws to another, must needs be superior tohim and since the legislative is no otherwise legislative of the society, butby the right it has to make laws for all the parts, and for every member of thesociety, prescribing rules to their actions, and giving power of execution,where they are transgressed, the legislative must needs be the supreme, and allother powers, in any members or parts of the society, derived from andsubordinate to it.

Two Treatises Of Government






1764 EDITORS NOTE The present Edition of this Book has not only beencollated with the first three Editions, which were published during theAuthors Life, but also has the Advantage of his last Corrections andImprovements, from a Copy delivered by him to Mr. Peter Coste,communicated to the Editor, and now lodged in Christ College, Cambridge.

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Of The State Of Nature

Sect. 4. TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original,we must consider, what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state ofperfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions andpersons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, withoutasking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.

A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal,no one having more than another there being nothing more evident, than thatcreatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the sameadvantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equalone amongst another without subordination or subjection, unless the lord andmaster of them all should, by any manifest declaration of his will, set oneabove another, and confer on him, by an evident and clear appointment, anundoubted right to dominion and sovereignty.

Sect. 5. This equality of men by nature, the judicious Hooker looks upon as soevident in itself, and beyond all question, that he makes it the foundation ofthat obligation to mutual love amongst men, on which he builds the duties theyowe one another, and from whence he derives the great maxims of justice andcharity. His words are,

Sect. 15. To those that say, there were never any men in the state of nature, Iwill not only oppose the authority of the judicious Hooker, Eccl. Pol. lib. i.sect. 10, where he says,

Other Books Related To Second Treatise Of Government

17. Constitutional Government: Locke’s Second Treatise (13-19)

LeviathanThe Social ContractSecond Treatise of Government

  • Full Title:Two Treatise of Government: In the Former, The False Principles, and Foundation of Sir Robert Filmer, and His Followers, Are Detected and Overthrown. The Latter Is an Essay Concerning The True Original, Extent, and End of Civil Government
  • When Written: 1689

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An Essay Concerning The True Original Extent And End Of Civilgovernment

Sect. 1. It having been shewn in the foregoing discourse,

. That Adam had not, either by natural right of fatherhood, or bypositive donation from God, any such authority over his children, or dominionover the world, as is pretended:

. That if he had, his heirs, yet, had no right to it:

. That if his heirs had, there being no law of nature nor positivelaw of God that determines which is the right heir in all cases that may arise,the right of succession, and consequently of bearing rule, could not have beencertainly determined:

. That if even that had been determined, yet the knowledge of whichis the eldest line of Adams posterity, being so long since utterly lost,that in the races of mankind and families of the world, there remains not toone above another, the least pretence to be the eldest house, and to have theright of inheritance:

Sect. 2. To this purpose, I think it may not be amiss, to set down what I taketo be political power that the power of a MAGISTRATE over a subject may bedistinguished from that of a FATHER over his children, a MASTER over hisservant, a HUSBAND over his wife, and a LORD over his slave. All which distinctpowers happening sometimes together in the same man, if he be considered underthese different relations, it may help us to distinguish these powers one fromwealth, a father of a family, and a captain of a galley.

Of The Forms Of A Common

Sect. 132. THE majority having, as has been shewed, upon mens firstuniting into society, the whole power of the community naturally in them, mayemploy all that power in making laws for the community from time to time, andexecuting those laws by officers of their own appointing and then the form ofthe government is a perfect democracy: or else may put the power of making lawsinto the hands of a few select men, and their heirs or successors and then itis an oligarchy: or else into the hands of one man, and then it is a monarchy:if to him and his heirs, it is an hereditary monarchy: if to him only for life,but upon his death the power only of nominating a successor to return to them an elective monarchy. And so accordingly of these the community may makecompounded and mixed forms of government, as they think good. And if thelegislative power be at first given by the majority to one or more persons onlyfor their lives, or any limited time, and then the supreme power to revert tothem again when it is so reverted, the community may dispose of it again anewinto what hands they please, and so constitute a new form of government: forthe form of government depending upon the placing the supreme power, which isthe legislative, it being impossible to conceive that an inferior power shouldprescribe to a superior, or any but the supreme make laws, according as thepower of making laws is placed, such is the form of the commonwealth.

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Of Paternal Political And Despotical Power Considered Together

Sect. 169. THOUGH I have had occasion to speak of these separately before, yetthe great mistakes of late about government, having, as I suppose, arisen fromconfounding these distinct powers one with another, it may not, perhaps, beamiss to consider them here together.

Sect. 173. Nature gives the first of these, viz. paternal power to parents forthe benefit of their children during their minority, to supply their want ofability, and understanding how to manage their property. Voluntary agreement gives the second, viz.political power to governors for the benefit of their subjects, to secure themin the possession and use of their properties. And forfeiture gives the thirddespotical power to lords for their own benefit, over those who are stripped ofall property.

Sect. 174. He, that shall consider the distinct rise and extent, and thedifferent ends of these several powers, will plainly see, that paternal powercomes as far short of that of the magistrate, as despotical exceeds it andthat absolute dominion, however placed, is so far from being one kind of civilsociety, that it is as inconsistent with it, as slavery is with property.Paternal power is only where minority makes the child incapable to manage hisproperty political, where men have property in their own disposal anddespotical, over such as have no property at all.

Natural Law And Natural Rights

Second Treatise of Government by Locke, John

Perhaps the most central concept in Lockes political philosophyis his theory of natural law and natural rights. The natural lawconcept existed long before Locke as a way of expressing the idea thatthere were certain moral truths that applied to all people, regardlessof the particular place where they lived or the agreements they hadmade. The most important early contrast was between laws that were bynature, and thus generally applicable, and those that wereconventional and operated only in those places where the particularconvention had been established. This distinction is sometimesformulated as the difference between natural law and positive law.

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The State Of Nature And The Social Contract

Lockes definition of political power has an immediate moral dimension. It is a right of making laws and enforcing them for the public good. Power for Locke never simply means capacity but always morally sanctioned capacity. Morality pervades the whole arrangement of society, and it is this fact, tautologically, that makes society legitimate.

Of The Dissolution Of Government

Sect. 212. Besides this over-turning from without, governments are dissolvedfrom within.

Sect. 213. This being usually brought about by such in the commonwealth whomisuse the power they have it is hard to consider it aright, and know at whosedoor to lay it, without knowing the form of government in which it happens. Letus suppose then the legislative placed in the concurrence of three distinctpersons.

. A single hereditary person, having the constant, supreme, executivepower, and with it the power of convoking and dissolving the other two withincertain periods of time.

. An assembly of hereditary nobility.

. An assembly of representatives chosen, pro tempore, by the people.Such a form of government supposed, it is evident,

Sect. 214. First, That when such a single person, or prince, sets up his ownarbitrary will in place of the laws, which are the will of the society,declared by the legislative, then the legislative is changed: for that being ineffect the legislative, whose rules and laws are put in execution, and requiredto be obeyed when other laws are set up, and other rules pretended, andinforced, than what the legislative, constituted by the society, have enacted,it is plain that the legislative is changed. Whoever introduces new laws, notbeing thereunto authorized by the fundamental appointment of the society, orsubverts the old, disowns and overturns the power by which they were made, andso sets up a new legislative.

In English thus:

Which in English runs thus:

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Of Political Or Civil Society

Sect. 77. GOD having made man such a creature, that in his own judgment, it wasnot good for him to be alone, put him under strong obligations of necessity,convenience, and inclination to drive him into society, as well as fitted himwith understanding and language to continue and enjoy it. The first society wasbetween man and wife, which gave beginning to that between parents andchildren to which, in time, that between master and servant came to be added:and though all these might, and commonly did meet together, and make up but onefamily, wherein the master or mistress of it had some sort of rule proper to afamily each of these, or all together, came short of political society, as weshall see, if we consider the different ends, ties, and bounds of each ofthese.

Sect. 78. Conjugal society is made by a voluntary compact between man andwoman and tho it consist chiefly in such a communion and right in oneanothers bodies as is necessary to its chief end, procreation yet itdraws with it mutual support and assistance, and a communion of interests too,as necessary not only to unite their care and affection, but also necessary totheir common off-spring, who have a right to be nourished, and maintained bythem, till they are able to provide for themselves.

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